This back-to-school STEM / STEAM Challenge brings the joy back to your classroom with collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)!
Of course, this challenge is also great for any time of year, but especially in the fall when learning about apples, Johnny Appleseed, or Sir Isaac Newton!
The basic premise:
Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build a cantilever to suspend an apple as far away from a desk’s edge as possible.
Note: This version is for use with Google Slides in 1:1/paperless classrooms. If you prefer to print and have students complete work with paper/pencil, you’ll want to look at the printable version instead.
If you have questions about which version is right for you, please feel free to leave me a question using the product Q&A below.
NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8
– Links to STEM Challenge How-To videos
– Materials and timing
– Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
– Measuring results
– Post-design extension activities list
– Link to a video walk-through of the challenge
– Criteria & Constraints List (editable version provided)
– Design Analysis
– Discussion Questions
– Process Flow Map
– Create & Solve Math Problems Based on Designs
– Estimate & measure the cantilever span distance in standard and non-standard units (editable version provided)
– Measure & convert span distance from customary (in.) to metric (cm) and then from cm to other metric units of measurement (editable version provided)
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. Amazon Affiliate links are included below. See disclosure.
- Small apple (1)
- Use very small apples. For younger students, you may prefer to not use the apple at all
- Unsharpened pencils (5 – 10)
- Rubber bands (5 – 10)
- Pocket folder with prongs (1)
- File folder or pocket folder without prongs may be substituted
- Tape (one roll of masking tape)
- String or yarn (36 – 48 in.)
- Medium and/or large binders clips (2 – 4)
- Paper lunch bag (1)
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Desk or table
- Devices can also be built from counters, but a desk or table offers more options to create tie-downs and ways to secure the devices.
- Design analysis handouts (included in resource)
Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
– Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
– Helps students develop growth mindset traits like persistence and resilience
– High levels of student engagement
– The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
– Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.
Each design iteration should be planned for ~60-90 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly.